There's a nascent but promising trend afoot in the French Quarter, one in which the most heavily-touristed parts of the neighborhood are starting to get casual restaurants that aren't explicitly tourist-oriented. Instead, these new places have enough quality and class both to attract locals and to please visitors whose tastes run better than "huge ass beers."
One example is Sylvain (625 Chartres St., 265-8123; www.sylvainnola.com), which opened within a beignet's throw of Jackson Square in 2010. A more recent addition is St. Lawrence (219 N. Peters St., 525-4111; www.-saintlawrencenola.com), a tavern with a creative kitchen that is open late.
St. Lawrence is the patron saint of cooks, and it's easy to see this place catching on as an after-work spot for downtown service industry workers. The kitchen is led by chef Caleb Cook, who was previously at Susan Spicer's Mondo and Bayona. His menu for St. Lawrence is an inspired take on comfort food, bar snacks and Southern flavors with lots of clever touches. Spring rolls are done Reuben style, filled with corned beef, Gruyere and chowchow, and wings get a pepper jelly glaze and goat cheese dressing. Fried chicken is brined in cider, there's a daily curry with market vegetables, the "sloppy Joel" is vegetarian, a grilled peach tops a chevre and arugula salad and there's a turducken burger topped with green apple remoulade.
Brendan Blouin, who opened St. Lawrence along with co-owner Jeff James, says they're working on a plan for a two-course, 30-minute express lunch to lure the CBD crowd. St. Lawrence is open from 11 a.m. to 2 a.m. Wednesday through Monday, and is closed on Tuesday.